Wednesday 29 June 2011

Creative Learning in Mexico!

Judith Kelly leading a sectional

Ali Read in the full rehearsal

We've just got back from two extra days in Mexico working with the Carlos Chavez Youth Orchestra. While the rest of the orchestra spent Monday evening at the airport, I [Ali Reid] went with Judith Kelly (violin) and Bridget Carey (viola) to a hotel on the other side of Mexico City to meet with teachers from the youth orchestra.

We had a fascinating discussion hearing about the project which was founded twenty years ago: two orchestras of the best young musicians in Mexico form a school that the students attend daily. Their orchestral work is complemented by individual tuition from some of Mexico's top professionals as well as more wide-ranging lessons including Alexander Technique and movement classes with a dancer. Having told us about their work the teachers were keen to hear about the British system. We also discussed the difficulties facing music education on opposing sides of the world: some problems are the same everywhere, but they have unique challenges to face and were keen to hear our views.

It was inspiring to meet such a fascinating group of teachers together with the visionary Julio at their helm, and it helped to prepare us for the two days ahead.

Early the following morning we departed the hotel for sectionals with the violins and violas. We spent 3 hours with them (and a translator of course!) putting them through their paces with Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem and Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. They were enthusiastic and really receptive: they have two concerts at the end of the week so were keen to work hard together before the afternoon's full rehearsal.

Having finished the morning we all piled onto two buses to go to the full rehearsal - packed lunches on the way! We arrived at a vast complex for the Arts in another part of the city. Not only is it home to a concert hall, but there's also a theatre, art gallery and dance studio just around the corner! This was the first meeting of the orchestra with their conductor for the week (Kenneth Jean) and he played through all of the programme, which also included a new Spanish work. We sat within the sections which was really useful: we could give some help as well as see how things felt in the thick of things!

The following day was a similar pattern of morning sectionals then full rehearsal. I think the three of us found this day even more productive. Having got to know the students and their playing we progressed quickly, and the full rehearsal that afternoon already sounded like a different orchestra. Sadly we had to dash to the airport straight from the hall, so won't have a chance to hear how they change towards the concerts. But we had crammed a lot into two days!

Before leaving we had several good chats with the students, who were also keen to hear all about musical life in England - we will hopefully keep in touch through the wonders of email! They are a really exciting group and the whole project is doing amazing things for the future of classical music in Mexico. An inspiring few days!

Ali Reid

Second Violin with Britten Sinfonia

Our Creative Learning work in Mexico was generously supported by Cambridge University Press, our International Partner.

Friday 24 June 2011

Photos from Mexico

The musicians and management team safely touched down at Heathrow airport on Tuesday afternoon following their successful tour of Mexico. We're currently hearing tales of tequila, beautiful concert halls and grass hoppers....

The following pictures were taken by our Orchestra Manager, Hannah Tucker;

Zocalo - the cathedral in Mexico City

The view of Cathedral square from the hotel terrace

Dancing in the square

Amy Wein and Bridget Carey enjoying a glass of wine at a reception following the first concert which celebrated the British Chamber of Commerce in Mexico's 90th anniversary

Violinists Miranda Dale, Kathy Shave and cellist, Juliet Welchman

Gillon Cameron and Ben Chappell talking to a guest at the reception

Walking towards the concert hall in Leon

Teatro del bicentenario - Leon

Inside Teatro del bicentenario

Rehearsing in Leon

Henning Kraggerud and some of his fans after the concert in Leon

Henning talking to some younger fans

Enjoying some food after the concert in Leon

Thomas Gould and Henning Kraggerud deep in conversation

The band at the restaurant

Walking to the Sala Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico City

Sala Nezahualcoyotl Concert Hall

Rehearsing at the Sala Nezahualcoyotl Concert Hall

Friday 17 June 2011

First day in Mexico

The orchestra arrived safely in Mexico City on Wednesday evening and yesterday they set to work rehearsing with violinist Henning Kraggerud for the first concert to be held tonight at the Anfiteatro Simon Bolivar. The concert is to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the British Chamber of Commerce in Mexico.

Anfiteatro Simon Bolivar

Britten Sinfonia rehearsing

Henning Kraggerud and the viola section

Thomas Gould and Beatrix Lovejoy

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Sinfonia at Work - challenging business men and women

Yesterday the Creative Learning team put on their business suits and took a trip to the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge for an eye-opening Sinfonia At Work day.

Britten Sinfonia musicians, Ali Reid (violin), Bridget Carey (viola) and Ben Chappell (cello), along with workshop leader and University Lecturer Dr. Allègre Hadida, worked with a group of CEO’s who came from all corners of the world, as part of an Advanced Leadership Programme – a course run by the Judge Business School.

The day began with a performance of the Dohnanyi Serenade for String Trio by the musicians, which led to interesting discussions about leadership and the role of a conductor. Underlying links to the world of business became very relevant.

We proceeded with a highly creative afternoon where the participants engaged in various team-building activites. They each chose a different instrument from drums to xylophones and guiros for the activities. Breaking off into groups led by a Britten Sinfonia musician, they composed pieces of music which they later performed on stage. The enthusiasm was incredible!

Allègre and the individual musicans challenged participants throughout and really got them thinking. Who knew that some of the most successful businessmen in the world could learn from chamber musicians and the way they work, collaborate and perform. Many of the participants came up to us after and expressed their enjoyment of the whole day and that they have plenty of fresh ideas to take back to the office.

Debbie Hannaway
Trainee Creative Learning Administrator

Debbie's post is supported by the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries Scheme.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Mr Big goes to Norwich!

A couple of weeks ago our Creative Learning team presented a fantastic schools concert at St. Andrew’s Hall, Norwich as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival (NNF 2011). It was based on the children’s book, Mr. Big by Ed Vere which is about a huge gorilla who plays the piano! The people in the city where he lives are afraid of him because of his size, but he is actually very shy inside. It is only when they hear him playing beautiful music on the piano that they become his friend and realize that he isn’t scary at all!

Leading the day was composer & workshop leader Hannah Conway, alongside Mr Big’s author and illustrator, Ed Vere and the string section from Britten Sinfonia. Prior to the concert 150 children attended a creative workshop where they made gorilla masks.

The concert was attended by 450 local primary school children – all of whom had learned four songs written by Hannah Conway based on the story, which they all knew inside out! Hannah told the story and led the songs while Ed illustrated live on a massive projector screen for everyone to see. It was magical seeing him draw the characters as Hannah told the story and got everyone involved. The teachers and staff even joined in with the singing and actions!

Britten Sinfonia played lots of short pieces in among the story, with a musician demonstrating various techniques. This allowed the children to learn about all of the different instruments, their names and what they sound like. They definitely know what pizzicato and a cadenza are!

After the concert there was a Q & A session where Hannah, Ed and Britten Sinfonia musicians Martin Outram and Miranda Dale were asked questions by the children. They had great questions like “Just how big is Mr. Big!?” and “What instruments play in the orchestra?”. They also read out letters which they had written to Mr. Big.

Overall we had a wonderful day and had really positive feedback from children and teachers alike. We hope that we can perform with Ed and Hannah and Mr Big again soon.

Debbie Hannaway
Trainee Creative Learning Administrator
DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursary Scheme Postholder

Photos © The Photo Unit